Intel was touting a 'system-on-chip' (SoC) design at IDF 2007, but since then we've scarcely heard a thing about it. Finally products are emerging from Santa Clara (or, rather, one or many of Intel's numerous fabs around the globe), the first of which is the Intel EP80579 Integrated Processor family.
The inspiringly named EP80579 isn't just a processor, though, but in fact integrates a CPU core, memory controller, integrated GPU, input controller (USB, Ethernet etc.) and some other components depending on which flavour of EP80579 you go for. More specifically, each chip boasts a Pentium M core, the predecessor to the Core architecture in use today. That means performance should be pretty impressive for the size of chip.
The different types of EP90679 depend on whether the SoC also includes what Intel calls QuickAssist technology. This refers to silicon designed to accelerate such applications as VoIP, security software and cryptographic processing. Intel is also supplying software solutions designed to help developers leverage this potential.
Everything communicates via an internal FSB, unlike Nehalem, which will also sport an integrated memory controller and (in some configurations) graphics unit. As it is, the latter CPU will use Intel's QuickPath interconnect to allow inter-CPU communication.
Clock speeds range from 600MHz with an 11.5W TDP up to 1.2GHz and a 21W TDP. In some configurations, Intel says this new platform will have up to a 45 per cent smaller footprint and 34 per cent lower power dissipation that its previous best-case Pentium M solutions.
The intended destinations for these chips are primarily MIDs, CE devices (that's TVs, DVD players and such like, in English) and other embedded environments. Intel believes, and to an extent we agree, that by bringing the Intel Architecture (i.e. x86) to these areas, developers will be able to more readily and simply translate software to fit these devices' intended purposes.
Intel says it already has 50 customers set to take the EP80579 on board, and that many of these have had access to silicon for over a year. That means that we should very quickly see products available packing the EP80579, so as to get a feel for just what it can do in real world scenarios.
As well as the chips announced today, Intel also let on that it has more than 15 further SoC planned, some of which will be based around the Atom core. We've speculated for a while that a fully single-chip integrated Atom chip could be an absolute barnstorm for Intel.
We can't wait to see what products all these SoC packages lead to.